Choose wisely from additives

There is a huge range of additives on the market. They can briefly be described as acids, sugars, inoculants, enzymes, and salts.

Based on Teagasc trials, formic acid products are the best additives when ensiling in difficult conditions. Sulphuric acid also improves fermentation in difficult conditions, but has never been proved to improve animal performance.

Inoculants result in proven economic improvement in animal performance under a wide range of conditions. Traditionally, we were led to believe that inoculants only made good silage better, but were of little use in poor conditions. However, there is a lot of data to show that an effective inoculant improves animal performance even in poor fermentation conditions.

Inoculants, on average, increase the DMD of silage by two units. There is a huge difference between the performances of different inoculants. Farmers should ensure a product they are purchasing does improve animal performance in conditions similar to their own.

The decision to use an inoculant in good ensiling conditions should be influenced by the type of animals to which it will be fed.

Do not get hung up on additives. A good quality sward harvested at the correct stage of growth with proper levels of nitrate and sugar, quick filling and sealing, avoiding any contamination with soil or dirt, are more important.

A test at your Teagasc office or another lab will show sugar and nitrate levels in the crop needed for accurate advice on the use of additives.

If the crop is young and lush, with low fibre content, it will be difficult to ensile without an additive or wilting. Strong stemmy silage cut in dry weather is unlikely to benefit from additives.


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